Eleven second-generation devotees received first and/or second initiation from ISKCON guru Radhanath Swami in New York City on June 9th, the day after New York Rathayatra.
Initiates hailed from Houston, Washington D.C., New York, and London, and included prominent kirtaniyas such as Gaura Vani, Jahnavi, Tulasi, Ananta Govinda, and Janaki Priya. All others in the group are also dedicated to regular ISKCON service in their areas.
The full list of initiates includes three who received first initiation only: Bhavin Mistry became Bhakti Ras das; Manish Vanodia became Madhava Kumar das; and Nisha Vanodia became Nandini Kumari dasi.
Three received both first and second initiation: Hari Farkas became Hari Nam das; Gaura Vani became Gaura Vani das; and Tulasi Sutaria became Tulasi Priti dasi.
Finally, five devotees received second initiation: Jahnavi Jivana dasi (previously Jahnavi Harrison); Kishor Gopal das; Ananta Govinda das; Janaki Priya dasi; and Vraj Bhumi das.
The group’s initiation tied together the three Hare Krishna temples in New York. Vows were made, and japa beads and new names received during a ceremony at the Bhakti Center in Manhattan, in front of Sri Sri Radha Muralidhara.
Eleven second-generation devotees received first or second initiation
A small, intimate group of initiates, their families, priests and Radhanath Swami then went to 26 2nd Avenue, the birthplace of ISKCON, for their fire yajna.
Finally the following evening, those receiving second initiation were given the gayatri mantra on the altar at Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir in Brooklyn.
During the Bhakti Center ceremony, which was attended by about 300 devotees, Radhanath Swami expressed an enormous amount of joy and gratitude to be serving Srila Prabhupada’s disciples by encouraging their children.
The ceremony was deeply moving, and focused on the importance of families in ISKCON.
“It was such an amazing experience — it was so personal,” says Tulasi Priti dasi. “Because we all grew up in the movement, our whole families were involved and spoke at the ceremony. For that to be highlighted and seen as important was very beautiful for us. Everybody in the room was in tears, and it just felt like such a special moment, both spiritually and emotionally.”
A mother herself, the initiation left Tulasi Priti feeling positive about future generations of ISKCON.
Tulasi Priti Dasi receives her initiation beads from Radhanath Swami
“Many other parents in the room, besides those of the initiates, were commenting that it was so inspiring and reassuring to see the second generation taking up this responsibility and taking Krishna consciousness seriously,” she says. “So in the same way, if we are making this step despite whatever struggles we’ve had with our identity etc, then we’re confident that our children will also feel the same.”
Gurukulis can be cautious about initiation, but often this is because they take it very seriously. Gaura Vani, who has been serving in the Hare Krishna Movement for many years, is 40.
“Personally, I was waiting until I felt confident to be able to hold up my end of the bargain,” he says. “I don’t want there to be any artifice in my spiritual life.”
Gaura Vani feels that this month’s group initiation of so many second generation devotees may encourage and open the door to other peers. He advises them to find the balance between patience and enthusiasm.
“Radhanath Swami told me years ago, ‘Don’t get initiated from social pressure,” he says. “Don’t get initiated to be cool, or out of some guilt or obligation. But get initiated when you wake up, when you realize that you don’t want to go one more day in your life without being initiated.’”
Gaura Vani continues, “For years, I thought what does that mean? But the time came when I realized how important this was to me, and how I would feel if I missed this opportunity. At that point it became clear to me – I had to do whatever I could to take initiation.”
Gaura Vani Das receives his initiation beads from guru Radhanath Swami
He encourages his peers to consider the importance of initiation. “Srila Prabhupada has cooked everything down to the essence,” he says. “He’s created a framework from the most essential, powerful parts of spiritual culture. And that framework includes sixteen rounds and initiation.”
While Krishna and Srila Prabhupada’s mercy is available to all, Gaura Vani feels that to be an ‘official, card-carrying representative of Lord Chaitanya’s Movement’ is a special step. “Being officially connected to the mercy of the disciplic succession means that we have access to all that shakti too, if we’re sincere.”
He adds that it’s very important for second-generation devotees to support each other in their path.
“None of us are strong enough to go on our own, and we all need each other’s help,” he says. “My sincere hope for the next generation is that we can do that for each other. And that was the best thing about this initiation. It was a group of friends. Everyone there knew each other, and loved each other, and was there in celebration of each other’s commitment. So we all need do this together – to step in, roll up our sleeves, take the plunge, and be the next generation of active devotees.”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies